What's the deal with switching birth control?

how to switch birth control pills properly

Everyone’s brain and body react differently to birth control. Similarly, as your own body changes and grows, you might notice differences in the ways your birth control affects you. Whether it be a change in your lifestyle, health, or preferences, it’s likely that you’ll consider switching your birth control at some point. Let’s dive into why you might consider switching, what that will look like, and how it can affect your body.

Why switch your birth control?

While all forms of birth control have possible side effects, they shouldn’t get in the way of your everyday life. Almost half of all women who go on an oral contraceptive control stop using it within the first year because of some of the side effects they experience. If you are experiencing such severe side effects as painful cramps or mood changes from your birth control, it might be your body's way of telling you that this isn’t the right birth control for you. The good news is, there are so many different birth control options. Find out which is right for you.

If you are thinking about finding a new form of birth control, here are some questions to ask yourself to help you find the right fit:

  • Am I trying to conceive soon?
  • Am I sexually active?
  • Will I remember to take a pill at the same time every day?
  • Why am I taking it? Aside from pregnancy prevention, birth control can have other benefits, such as preventing acne and controlling painful periods.
  • How important is convenience?

    Birth control is often prescribed for reasons other than contraception to help control things like acne, heavy periods, or medical conditions like endometriosis. Talk to your primary care provider about your birth control options to help beyond pregnancy prevention.

    How to switch your birth control

    Getting off your birth control and starting a new one isn’t as simple as it sounds. Because every form of birth control is different, the process of switching from one to another also looks different. The first step should always be talking to your primary care provider about your options and your preferences. Regardless of what form, primary care providers recommend avoiding unprotected sex for at least a week while transitioning birth control methods.

    When switching forms of birth control, American Family Physician says it’s best to go straight from one to the other, without gaps in between to lower the chance of pregnancy. Sometimes, they even recommend overlapping your birth control to ensure the new method starts working before the old one wears off. American Family Physician lays out the process of switching birth control options in all case scenarios here.

    If you’re switching from one type of birth control pill to another, you don’t have to finish your old pack before starting your new one. You can stop wherever you are in your pack and start with the first pill of the new pack the next day. Additionally, you don’t have to wait until you get your period again before starting your new birth control.

    How does birth control affect your body?

    Starting or ending any type of birth control will take some time for your body to get used to. Experts advise giving your body 3 months to adjust to the new form of birth control before considering other options. Be sure to talk to your primary care physician about any symptoms or side effects that concern you!

    Your period is affected differently by each form of birth control. When switching to a non-hormonal IUD (copper), you’re likely to experience heavier bleeding and cramping. On the other hand, switching to a hormonal IUD (Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, or Skyla) is more likely to stop your period completely. Hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by thinning the lining of the uterus, which is also what happens every month when your period comes. Because your uterine lining is already thinned with a hormonal IUD, there is less of the material to shed and as a result a lighter period. 

    Starting a new form of birth control might also affect your weight. According to the Mayo Clinic Staff, both combination and mini pills have been linked to weight gain as they cause your body to retain much more water. This might also be true with the patch or vaginal ring, as they contain estrogen which causes fluid retention. Most of this weight gain is likely water weight. Be open and communicative with your primary care physician about these side effects.

    Let’s talk about your sex drive

    Around 15% of women report a drop in libido after switching to or starting a new birth control method. A lot of combined birth control pills contain hormones that lower your testosterone hormone, which is what makes you want to have sex. It’s also important to keep an eye on your mental health when starting any kind of birth control. It has been found that hormones, in general, play a role in depression. Hormonal birth control works by changing the natural level of hormones in your body, which can lead to changes in your mood. Be open and honest with your doctor and those around you if you are experiencing depression. Here is a link to resources if you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis.

    Switching methods of birth control shouldn’t be hard or scary. At Stix, we want to provide women with a better experience accessing the products and information they need for their life. Head to the Stix Library for more resources like this or shop our products today.

    Keep Reading